The Ducks put on a dominating exhibition against the UCLA Bruins Thursday night. Many in the ESPN national audience got to see Oregon for the first time this season, and couldn't help but have been impressed.
Summary: A- Although this was a dominating performance, it could have been better. Several penalties of the 15 yard nature could have been hurtful under different circumstances, the defense was a little soft early in the game, and giving up the final touchdown appalling. Still, outstanding game with the football world watching.
Offense: A (60 points, 32 first downs, 582 total offense, 8-9 red zone, 0 TO) Since DSA does not recognize the A+ this is actually the gold medal of grades for a unit. Thursday was a very strong offensive performance, marred only by a couple stalled drives. One of the best things about this offense is its balance. It may not have equal statistics run versus pass on any given game, but it can perform either function equally well. Overall against UCLA the offense appeared very well-coached.
Quarterback: A (Thomas 22-31-308 3 TD's, 5-48 rushing Costa 2-2-4, 3-27 rushing) Darron Thomas put immediate pressure on the Bruins, completing his first eleven passes opening up the width and breadth of the field for the running game. Not only did Thomas throw the ball accurately, he also ran through his progressions like a veteran. The coup d' grace was his near-perfect decision making. Interestingly, the offense doesn't miss a beat when Costa goes in.
Offensive line: A (6.8 ypc, 0 sacks) This edition of G&A is beginning to reek of easy grading. That is not the case. Like most the rest of the team the offensive line did everything you want it to do: Keep pressure off the quarterback, open running lanes and play until the whistle. It also avoided the things you don't want it to do like holding and jumping offside. Though Thomas did get knocked down a few times when UCLA brought pressure, for the most part he had time to do whatever he needed.
Running back: A- (James 20-123 2 TD's, 1-25 receiving, Alston 8-75 3 TD's) Since the passing game was working so well the running game could have taken it easy. It didn't. Five touchdowns on the ground between the two backs is an impressive day's work. LaMichael James was his impressive self although he scared Duck fans in the first quarter hobbling off with help after a 6-yard run to the UCLA 7. Remene Alston took advantage of his playing time by doing a disciplined job of running north and south, just as coaches draw it up. What kept this grade from the top was a little sloppiness in the ball security department.
Wide receiver: A (Maehl 8-107 TD, Davis 4-37, Tuinei 3-40, Huff 2-37 TD, Hawkins 2-4) What do you want from wide receivers? Most people think of catching passes and this group certainly did that. Led once again by Jeff Maehl, the WR group accounted for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Off the ball they were even better, constantly tying up defenders and keep the lanes open for the running game.
Tight end: A- (Paulson 4-62 TD) Great game by David Paulson. It could have been even better with another chance he had in the endzone, although it appeared the defender got away with a little something on the play. Paulson got to show off his excellent hands with a one-handed grab that even the officials had to do a double-take to believe.
Defense: B+ (13 points, 19 first downs, 290 total offense, 3 takeaways, 10 tfl) The defense did a lot of good things against the Bruins, but left some room for improvement as well. One of the good things was once again showing off its nation-leading ability to take the ball away from the offense, which it did twice. Good thing too. Before John Boyett's interception on the Bruin's first drive they were marching down the field. In hindsight that drive proved to be UCLA's last chance to get into the football game. Early in the game the defense also struggled to stop the run up the middle against the curiously-named 'pistol' offense. Aliotti once again showed the ability to make adjustments, going away from the slant calls and getting the DL's momentum going north at the snap, putting an end to the Bruin success in the middle.
Defensive line: A- (Bair 8 tackles, tfl, Rowe 6 tackles, 3.5 tfl, ff, sack, Jordan 3 tackles, Heimuli 3 tackles, Hanna 2 tackles, tfl, ff, sack, Turner 2 tackles, tfl, Clark 2 tackles) Great tackle distribution by the defensive line but once again, it was big ol' #88 getting the lion's share of the tackles. He had plenty of help against the Bruins. In addition to their tackles, Rowe and Hanna each caused a fumble which led directly to an Oregon touchdown. DSA is too lazy to research this, but when you look at the number of tackles by the DL this year it is a higher percentage of the team tackles than any other year in recent memory. What keeps this grade from the top of the scale is the aforementioned early softness of the defensive LOS.
Linebacker: B (Clay 7 tackles, Paysinger 6 tackles, 0.5 tfl, Matthews 6 tackles, sack, Lokombo 4 tackles, Kaddu 4 tackles, tfl, Littlejohn 3 tackles) This was an above average job by the group, but nothing they could make a long highlight reel out of. For the most part they were in position to make plays, although the reaching and grabbing of the facemasks (I'm looking at you Paysinger and Kaddu) does not show the kind of awareness you would expect out of this well a coached team.
Defensive back:B (Boyett 7 tackles, INT, Harris 5 tackles, Jackson 5 tackles, Pleasant 4 tackles, FR, Johnson 4 tackles, FR, Patterson 3 tackles) Good job by this group. It's nice that 2010 is not one of those years where the top three leading tacklers on the team every game are defensive backs. Instead the guys are looking to make plays on the ball more often, and Boyett changed the tone of the game with his heist to put an end to the only momentum the Bruins could muster all day. The grade would have been higher if the group had put the clamps down on the passing game which they were fully capable of doing.
Special teams: B+ Nothing sexy and great out of the special teams this game unless you want to count the two-point conversion after the second touchdown. Instead this was more of a very good, well-rounded game by the diverse group known as special teams.
Punt: B Rice 1-39 Jackson Rice barely broke a sweat against the Bruins.
Punt Return: B- Harris 4-17 No long TD returns that have vaulted Harris to the top of Rivals national list of special teams players. Harris has better hands than he lets on sometimes.
Kicking: A FG Beard 1-1, PAT 7-7 What do you give a guy who hits all his shots? The best grade you got.
KOR: B Huff 3-83 Solid work by the return unit, who like the punt team, needs to shake off the rust after this game.
Coaching: A Truly a remarkable coaching exhibition by Chip Kelly and the rest of the Oregon staff. You just sit back and watch a game like that and any fan would wish their team could execute like that. The timing, the spacing, the execution, it was all clicking against the Bruins. Successful in-game adjustments by the Oregon staff were also evident on both sides of the ball. Nice stuff to watch, and far more relaxing to observe than in years past.